CB vs. ham radio

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CB vs. ham radio

Post by Kevin on Wed Jan 18, 2017 8:29 am

CB has two benefits. You don't need a license, and you don't need to program your radio. That's it, really, amateur radio is superior in every other respect - vastly better range, clearer signal, it's better than CB just for truck to truck comm and that doesn't factor in where/who you can talk to if you can reach a repeater (pretty much anywhere in the world, give or take). The third thing CB used to have over ham was cost, but with the cheap Hecho en China radios available now even that isn't a plus for CB. I think we should switch, as a club, to using primarily ham radio.

If anyone is interested, here's how you do it. Start with www.hamstudy.org. There are other study websites out there, and even classes, but I think this one is the best and it's free. Make an account, and then start hitting the flashcards. Don't worry if you don't know what the answers mean, that's irrelevant, all you need to do is memorize enough of the multiple choice answers that you can pass the test. The website will keep track of which ones you get wrong and which ones you get right, and will keep feeding you the ones you get wrong until you start getting them right, and then moves on. It keeps track of how many total questions in the pool you've seen, and how many you've gotten right enough times that it thinks you know them. It also has links to explanations of questions, so if you really want to know the why of a particular answer you can find out right there. The website also has practice tests - once you get confident with the flashcards, start taking practice tests. Get to where you can pass five or ten tests in a row, and you're ready. Find a test session, spend $14, pass the test, two weeks or so later you get your call sign and you're good to go. Hamstudy.org has a link to some test sessions, there are more on the ARRL.com website. Doesn't matter where you go, they're all the same. If you're feeling froggy you can study for the General test and take it at the same time your take the Tech test - your General license gives you access to more frequencies and operating privileges. It's a bigger question pool and more to absorb. Most guys stuck with the Tech license.

I spent probably six hours total studying for the test, three hours of which was a cram session the day of the test. It's crazy easy. Again, you don't have to know the technology and science, you just have to memorize the answers to the multiple choice questions - most of the stuff in the test will be irrelevant to us anyway, unless you nerd out and become a ham geek, in which case may god have mercy on your soul.

Once you've passed the test, you need a radio. There's a LOT of different radios out there - you can buy a handheld or a mobile platform to install in your truck, you can go cheap or expensive. What I've done is buy a Baofeng UV5R handheld for about $30 on Amazon while I get my bearings. It's plenty good enough for beginners like us, and you're not wasting money because it'll make for a good loaner or glovebox spare if/when you upgrade. At that price it's also practically disposable, so you won't be crying if you drop it in the mud or crack it on a rock.

TLDR version - $14 license, $30 radio, way better than CB.


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Re: CB vs. ham radio

Post by TRD270 on Wed Jan 18, 2017 10:08 am

Will the badmin be sponsoring this endeavor?

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Re: CB vs. ham radio

Post by dutchman on Wed Jan 18, 2017 10:27 am

Been reading through the HAM thread on RME.

While on the trail, do the radios themselves act as repeaters? I would imagine that on some of our trips we're a good distance from a repeater.

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Re: CB vs. ham radio

Post by Kevin on Wed Jan 18, 2017 11:32 am

TRD270 wrote:Will the badmin be sponsoring this endeavor?

If by "sponsoring" you mean looking down my nose at you and talking shit on the ham radio behind your back until you get your license, then yes, yes I am.

dutchman wrote:Been reading through the HAM thread on RME.

While on the trail, do the radios themselves act as repeaters? I would imagine that on some of our trips we're a good distance from a repeater.

They do not.  At least not regular radios.  I assume it'd be possible to rig up a mobile repeater, but I'm sure it'd be much more money and hassle than it'd be worth.

At 5W power, a handheld (HT, in ham-speak) has better line of site transmission than any but the most powerful CB transmitters, and clearer too because it's FM and not AM.  Better "bounce", too - my handheld with the rubber duck antenna seems to have about the same range around the corner as my Midway CB with external antenna.  Make that a 50W mobile with a good external antenna and CB won't even be in the same ballpark in terms of performance.

And you'd be surprised to find out what kind of repeater coverage is out there.  This map shows the amount of ground that is covered by just two repeaters in the Salt Lake City area - one on Farnsworth Peak between WVC and Tooele, and one up Big Cottonwood between Brighton and Park City.  That's just two repeaters on one frequency.  Utah has hundreds of repeaters, and several of them are tied together in larger networks, effectively increasing their coverage area by orders of magnitude.  Most of our use will be "simplex" mode, or transmitting directly to eachother using the same frequency for transmit and receive.  But we will almost always be able to reach a repeater if we need to talk to eachother or somebody else over distances that our radios can't reach independently. Some repeaters even have what's called a phone patch, that let you tie into the telephone network and make phone calls with your radio.

I'm telling you guys, this is terribly handy stuff.

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Re: CB vs. ham radio

Post by TRD270 on Wed Jan 18, 2017 7:32 pm

I'm a good guesser, i'm slaying these flash cards

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Re: CB vs. ham radio

Post by Bennamin on Thu Jan 19, 2017 7:14 am

Another thing... I've started to research this stuff, too. I found that hamstudy.org is sponsored by SignalStuff, that make awesome antennas. So, if you get your handy little HT and want a better antenna... before clicking to add something on Amazon that everyone else buys, check SS out. For $20 you can help keep hamstudy.org helping everyone else.

Oh, and if anyone is going to go take a test, post the info... a bunch of us could go hang out together. Wouldn't be as much fun as freezing on the west desert, but close!
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Re: CB vs. ham radio

Post by Kevin on Thu Jan 19, 2017 9:59 am

I'd be down to get a burger with everybody on test night.

Here's another link I learned a lot at, but this is all practical stuff, lots of help for getting started but not so much for passing the test.

http://noji.com/hamradio/newham.php

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Re: CB vs. ham radio

Post by dutchman on Thu Jan 19, 2017 10:17 am

Is the test online or do we have to go somewhere to take it?

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Re: CB vs. ham radio

Post by Kevin on Thu Jan 19, 2017 11:28 am

You have to take it on site. There's one every week down in Orem, there's another regular one in Ogden but I don't know if it's every week? You preregister with the FCC and get an ID number, then you go to the test session and the volunteers put you in front of a computer and you log in with that ID and take the test. When you're done they give you a certificate that says you passed, and they submit your info to the FCC, and two weeks later out pops your call sign.

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Re: CB vs. ham radio

Post by Kevin on Thu Jan 19, 2017 11:33 am

Here, some test times and dates: https://hamstudy.org/sessions

Some more: http://www.arrl.org/find-an-amateur-radio-license-exam-session

They like it when you preregister so they know who all is coming.

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Re: CB vs. ham radio

Post by TRD270 on Fri Jan 20, 2017 10:50 am

Well I ordered a radio, was ordering sway bar bushings and they were an add-on item so I pulled the trigger on the radio. Now I just need to study and get the test taken

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Re: CB vs. ham radio

Post by offroad_medic on Fri Jan 20, 2017 11:05 am

I've been meaning to get my HAM license. I think my county might put on a free class every now and then if people would be interested i could look into it. I wont be going to it as I don't want to sit through a "death by powerpoint" class. What I really want is to get to pick my call sign......
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Re: CB vs. ham radio

Post by dutchman on Fri Jan 20, 2017 11:53 am

I believe you can apply for a vanity call sign, you get to pick that one.

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Re: CB vs. ham radio

Post by Kevin on Fri Jan 20, 2017 1:36 pm

offroad_medic wrote:What I really want is to get to pick my call sign......

You can do that. There are rules about the format depending on which license class you have, but you can have anything you want within your class restrictions that isn't already taken. Gotta get your license first.


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Re: CB vs. ham radio

Post by TRD270 on Fri Jan 20, 2017 5:05 pm

Bennamin wrote:Another thing... I've started to research this stuff, too. I found that hamstudy.org is sponsored by SignalStuff, that make awesome antennas. So, if you get your handy little HT and want a better antenna... before clicking to add something on Amazon that everyone else buys, check SS out. For $20 you can help keep hamstudy.org helping everyone else.

Oh, and if anyone is going to go take a test, post the info... a bunch of us could go hang out together. Wouldn't be as much fun as freezing on the west desert, but close!

Looks like its also a Utah based company. I'll have to throw them $20 for an antenna when I pass

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Re: CB vs. ham radio

Post by Kevin on Sat Jan 21, 2017 8:39 am

I missed him when I went, but apparently the guy who makes that SignalStick is normally one of the volunteers at the Orem test sessions.  You could pick up your antenna there and save a couple bucks in shipping.

I still want to get one, but I bought a Nagoya magnetic mount first instead.

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Re: CB vs. ham radio

Post by Kevin on Tue Jan 24, 2017 9:53 am

There's a ham night brewing on ExpUt.

http://www.expeditionutah.com/forum/showthread.php?p=65107#post65107

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Re: CB vs. ham radio

Post by Bennamin on Tue Jan 24, 2017 3:55 pm

Kevin wrote:There's a ham night brewing on ExpUt.

http://www.expeditionutah.com/forum/showthread.php?p=65107#post65107

Can't see that. Either I gotta beg for you to share the info, or I gotta join.
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Re: CB vs. ham radio

Post by Kevin on Tue Jan 24, 2017 5:07 pm

I love a good grovel, but an ExpUt account is free. I'll let you decide. Smile

They haven't set a date yet, is why I bring it up. If anybody wants in and has a preference for which day of the week, speak up.

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Re: CB vs. ham radio

Post by TRD270 on Tue Jan 24, 2017 5:45 pm

Care package, fancy new shirt, my surprisingly small radio and hopefully the part to repair the clunk



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Re: CB vs. ham radio

Post by Kevin on Wed Jan 25, 2017 2:03 am

I'm wearing my new hoody today. It's almost as good as the RME hoody, not quite as thick though.

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Re: CB vs. ham radio

Post by dutchman on Wed Jan 25, 2017 7:57 am

I got my shirt on Saturday!!!


Oh and started studying for the test.

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Re: CB vs. ham radio

Post by dutchman on Wed Jan 25, 2017 6:59 pm

Are the flash cards actual test questions? Does the test repeat questions like the flash cards do?

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Re: CB vs. ham radio

Post by Kevin on Wed Jan 25, 2017 11:40 pm

Yes, and no. Those flashcards are all the possible questions you might get on the test. The actual test will pick 36 of those at random.

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Re: CB vs. ham radio

Post by Kevin on Fri Jan 27, 2017 9:59 am

Dempsey's ham night is penciled in for Thursday Feb 7th at the Landcruiser Heritage Museum in Salt Lake, which all I know is somewhere downtownish. Not a formal class, mostly just screwing around with the radios and Dempsey answering questions.

And probably a little wandering around looking at the huge collection of Landcruisers.

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